Teaching From the Manuals

Mormon Heretic’s blog post this week, Comparing Correlation with the Supreme Court, inspired me to find out, or try to find, exactly what the manuals and LDS leaders say about teaching lessons from the church-provided lesson manuals. A survey of the manuals and talks as well as the Sunday School website will lead one to the following conclusion:

It’s not that clear. Surprised?  I didn’t think so.

It depends on how you interpret what has been taught on the subject by the General Authorities, what the lesson manual actually say, how your local leaders interpret all of it and what the Spirit tells you to do. It also depends on whether you follow the examples of the GAs themselves when they are called upon to teach the Church in General Conference and other meetings. Oh, and what the scriptures say.

What General Authorities Say

The most oft quoted passage found in some of the lesson manuals themselves is one from Elder M. Russell Ballard:

“Teachers would be well advised to study carefully the scriptures and their manuals before reaching out for supplemental materials. Far too many teachers seem to stray from the approved curriculum materials without fully reviewing them. If teachers feel a need to use some good supplemental resources beyond the scriptures and manuals in presenting a lesson, they should first consider the use of the Church magazines” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1983, 93; or Ensign, May 1983, 68).

Now, as I read this passage, I read that it is important to consider the scriptures and lesson manuals first and study them BEFORE reaching out for extra materials and, if you do wish to use supplemental materials, church magazines if the first place to look. Good advice, really.

I could not find any specific comments by General Authorities that said directly to always use only the scriptures and the lesson materials and “Church-approved sources.” Instead, I found quotes such as this:

“Because we need the Holy Ghost, we must be cautious and careful not to go beyond teaching true doctrine. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth. His confirmation is invited by our avoiding speculation or personal interpretation. That can be hard to do. You love the person you are trying to influence. He or she may have ignored the doctrine they have been taught. It is tempting to try something new or sensational. But we invite the Holy Ghost as our companion when we are careful to teach only true doctrine. One of the surest ways to avoid even getting near false doctrine is to choose to be simple in our teaching. Safety is gained by that simplicity, and little is lost.” Henry B. Eyring, “The Power of Teaching Doctrine,” Ensign, May 1999, 73

“Teaching by the Spirit is the Lord’s way. How do we do this? First, we must keep the commandments, especially the commandment to keep our thoughts and actions clean. Second, we must prepare. Third, we must desire to be led and be willing to be led by the Spirit.”  Dallin H. Oaks, “Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,” Liahona, May 1999, 15

The following, taught by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in the Worldwide  Leadership Broadcast in 2007 (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Teaching and Learning in the Church,” Liahona, Jun 2007, 56–73) on Teaching summarizes what the Brethren really teach about Teaching in the Church:

The Gift of Teaching

1. Ask, seek, and knock spiritually.

2. Teach from the scriptures.

3. Teach by and with the Spirit.

4. Help the learner assume responsibility for learning.

5. Testify.

What the Lesson Manuals Say

The introductions in the Church lesson manuals are not consistent in the area of what materials to use. They all say basically the same thing as the 5 points above. But here are some specific passages from some of them on the subject of extra materials:

“Be judicious in your use of commentaries and other nonscriptural sources of information. Class members should be taught to seek knowledge and inspiration from the scriptures and the words of the latter-day prophets. “Helps for the Teacher,” Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, v” Same as in the New Testament manual

“This manual is a tool to help you teach the doctrines of the gospel from the scriptures. It has been written for youth and adult Gospel Doctrine classes and is to be used every four years. Additional references and commentaries should not be necessary to teach the lessons.” “Helps for the Teacher,” Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999),v

“It is not necessary or recommended that members purchase additional commentaries or reference texts to support the material in the text. Members are encouraged to turn to the scriptures that have been suggested for further study of the doctrine. “Introduction,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, v” and the other “Teachings of Presidents” books.

And, finally, in the only manual to specifically prohibit the use of any outside materials other than Church magazines, we find this:

“If you have been called to teach a quorum or class using this book, do not substitute outside materials, however interesting they may be. Stay true to the scriptures and the words in the book. As appropriate, use personal experiences and articles from Church magazines to supplement the lessons.” “Introduction,” Gospel Principles, (2009), 1–3″

But even this only says do not substitute, not “never use.” The lessons in the Gospel Principles manual are very short, but in general, I would agree that a discussion of basic gospel principles probably does not need additional sources.

How our Local Leaders Interpret It

You are going to get a wide range of guidance on this issue. All the way from, “only teach from the manuals, scriptures and church magazines” to “we trust you to follow the Spirit and do what is right.” And everything in between.

What the Spirit Tells You to Do

In all the materials, a key component to being a successful teacher is to pray, seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost and Follow the Spirit in your teaching. Seems to me that is good advice and one cannot go wrong but adhering to this principle. It may not always get you out of a jam with a local leader, but ultimately, if we are true to this principle, we can feel comfortable with ourselves and what we’ve decided to do.

Examples of the GAs When They Teach

It is not unusual for General Authorities to use extra materials when they teach church members. In my mind, this is a good example to follow.  While they mainly quote from the scriptures and latter-day prophets, they also use outside materials occasionally. President Monson is fond of quoting from Broadway shows, for example. And the Brethren frequently quote C.S. Lewis, a prominent non-LDS Christian writer. And they will also slip in a scripture verse used from a translation other than the King James Version. But, you will not hear them quoting from speculative sources. This can also be our guide in the use of outside materials.

What the Scriptures Say

“Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” (Exodus 4:12)

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23)

“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” (Hebrews 5:12)

“Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men. (Doctrine and Covenants 11:21)

Conclusion

My conclusion is this. We are to pray, seek the Spirit and prepare using the scriptures and the materials we are given. If we feel it necessary to use a quote or a commentary from another source in order to enhance the lesson, we should use it. Our desire is to help the student more fully understand the lesson being taught. If we feel we can accomplish that with another piece of material, all the better.  Not to go overboard with the extra materials, but to enhance the discussion.

Comments

comments

25 comments for “Teaching From the Manuals

  1. Aaron R.
    September 24, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Jeff, what about straying from the outlined themes suggested in the lesson manual. I use outside materials but I try to stick to the scriptures when I teach but I often do not use the passages that are suggested nor do I read them in the same way that contextualised in the manual (cf. BiV’s recent post). What is your sense for this type of approach from your study?

  2. AndrewJDavis
    September 24, 2010 at 9:18 am

    “This manual is a tool to help you teach the doctrines of the gospel from the scriptures”

    I think this statement is rather illuminating, particularly in this year of studying the Old Testament. From it, I gather that we are not to teach anything regarding the history (as in, did xyz person actually exist), political setting, or cultural setting for the writings in the Old Testament. Instead we just teach the point of the lesson pulling isolated verses from the OT as assigned in the manual.

    I believe that this is a valid approach to scripture study, but it’s not what I want to do over and over again in Sunday School. Understanding more about the history and culture surely would help us understand what the Law and the Prophets were actually saying — not what we think they’re saying 3000+ years later.

  3. Jeff Spector
    September 24, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Aaron R,

    “What is your sense for this type of approach from your study?”

    Firstly, I think that any approach that has us in the scriptures is good. I, too, like to use the scriptures simply because most people DO NOT read them before hand. so I do not like telling the class what the scriptures say, but rather have them read them aloud. I often find that the passages in the lessons are incomplete as to the whole point of the lesson so, like you, I will expand which scriptures I use. The lessons often use the scripture as “soundbites.” Sometimes that works, other times it does not.

  4. Jeff Spector
    September 24, 2010 at 9:33 am

    AndrewJDavis,

    “Understanding more about the history and culture surely would help us understand what the Law and the Prophets were actually saying — not what we think they’re saying 3000+ years later.”

    Absolutely! You just have to put things in historical cultural context for it to man anything. sometimes the lessons do a fair job of that, often times not enough to suit me. So I spend some time putting it in the right context with some arguments why things might not be as they seem in the writings. I have also done some enrichment on the transliteration of the Hebrew names (I think I did a post here about that) to help the class understand what the name mean and how to correctly pronounce them.

    It is all for the purpose of helping the class understand better how we get to the Gospel as we understand it today.

  5. Mike S
    September 24, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Thank you for your collect of quotes on teaching. Teaching can be hard, but we have all been touched by a wonderful teacher. It is hard to always say exactly what makes someone a great teacher, otherwise we could help everyone be a great teacher, but I am glad whenever I find one.

    Regarding the post and the use of outside sources, etc., I think the fundamental problem is that the most recent proclamations always trump earlier proclamations. It doesn’t matter that Joseph Smith drank wine and beer, we currently follow the guidelines set down by later prophets. It doesn’t matter what someone said about race and priesthood, we currently follow the latest teachings.

    I think a similar thing applies here. While some of your earlier quotes seem to allow a bit more latitude, in the past year the Church has really come down hard on sticking to the manual. Using your quote from 2009:

    “If you have been called to teach a quorum or class using this book, do not substitute outside materials, however interesting they may be. Stay true to the scriptures and the words in the book. As appropriate, use personal experiences and articles from Church magazines to supplement the lessons.” “Introduction,” Gospel Principles, (2009), 1–3″

    Someone can try to determine what “substitute” really means, but at the end of the day, the vast majority of local leaders are going to “be safe” and interpret this as “NO OUTSIDE MATERIALS”.

    And from 2010 Church News, it is even more explicit (some sections removed for the sake of brevity, but the entire thing is on the Church’s website):

    “Everything you need — and more — is in your manual,” the daughter said.
    …we may be tempted to do more, to turn to unofficial lesson plans, resources and information found in books and on the Internet.
    …leaders and teachers in the Church do themselves and the people they serve a disservice when they turn to unofficial — not correlated — materials in the planning of lessons and activities.”

    It’s fairly clear here. We should not go past the manual (and the scriptures). We should not use “not correlated” materials. We should not use materials in other books or anywhere else.

    Now, it is up to us if we chose to ignore this. I would love to go to one of your lessons given your background, etc. Granted, it may already be in your head and therefore not really using something from another book 🙂 But most bishops and stake presidents I have known have been sticklers about following the letter of the law, and in 2009 and 2010, the Church has been very specific about sticking only to the manual, despite what they may have said earlier.

  6. September 24, 2010 at 11:35 am

    My two cents: A great teacher is one who engages the class in discussion on the topic and steers that discussion to illumniation for me (and, I assume, others). An awful teacher is one who does not engage the class and who bores me. Most of my gospel teachers fall somewhere in between.

    I haven’t been to Gospel Doctrine for more than a year because of my assignment in the ward (I team-teach the Gospel Essentials class). In the GE class I attend (and teach) we have basic disussions that are full of personal experience. We don’t dive deep into doctrine very often, but we do discuss the doctrines of the kingdom. And the spirit is strong in that class.

    In our HP group, we take turns teaching one another (we don’t have called instructors) from the GP manual. Some employ the “ready, aim, read” approach, which is boring to me, but does ensure that we stick to the manual. My appproach in HP tends to be to stick with the theme, but to use questions around the theme, and to draw quotations from the manual, and to use the recommended scriptures in the manual to spur discussion. These High Priests have a pretty good handle on the principles of the gospel, and their experiences can be fascinating, once we get them to talk.

    Gospel Doctrine seems to be the difficult nut to crack. I have had teachers who regularly used some internet-generated lesson (complete with handouts each week) that annoyed me to no end. Not only did they skirt the lesson manual, but they simply slavishly repeated whatever the internet-lesson-preparer prepared.

    I prefer a teach who prepares deeply, then teaches the scriptures. When I have taught Gospel Doctrine in the past, my focus has been on the scripture block for the lesson, not on the lesson manual; I used the CES approach that I learned, namely that we teach the scriptures, we do not teach about them. But I do not have enough education on the Old Testament in particular to do that in a meaningful way, so i would need further study, aided by the manual, and perhaps by trusted resources. I would, however, not want to make the “trusted” (by me) resources the focal point of the lesson, because I know that my relatively conservative ward would not be comfortable. That said, if I drew information from those sources to supplement/clarify the themes of the lesson I would not worry about that.

    Well, I’ve now used far more than two cents…

  7. Jeff Spector
    September 24, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Paul:

    Agree completely with your approach in all forums.

    Mike S: You just have this obsession with the WoW that enters into every discussion. you said; “in the past year the Church has really come down hard on sticking to the manual.”

    I do not see it that way. Since I am not teaching from the gospel Principles Manual, I go by what is the Old Testament Manual until it is changed. I respect the lessons in the manual and use them pretty much as is. but I am also not afraid to use something I think is also worthwhile to the lesson.

    I should also note that my Bishop sits in on at least a portion of every lesson I teach so I feel pretty good about my methods. He has complemented my frequently on my lessons so I feel I am on safe ground.

    Oh, and I can assure you it is not all in my head, but I do have a very different perspective than most church members about various aspect of the scripture.

  8. CS Eric
    September 24, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    I’m pretty sure when Elder Perry talked about seeing his mother prepare for lessons and having the entire dining room table covered with materials, he wasn’t telling us just to use the manuals and nothing else. He was using her as an example of a great teacher, both in her church classes and in her home. How hard would it have been to say, “Now, because our manuals are sufficient and complete, she wouldn’t need to do that anymore”?

    You can take your Church News editorial. I’m following the example of an apostle–taught after that Church News article was printed.

  9. September 24, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Jeff, I appreciate the post. I think it’s also useful to point out the underlying reasons for many of these suggestions. I think focusing on the scriptural territory of a given lesson is sound advice that many excellent teachers do. The “Purpose” section of the Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual provides the focus of the lesson, but I find it broad enough to encompass a great latitude of lesson development. The section headings “Suggested Lesson Development” and “Additional Teaching Ideas” illustrate that these are suggestions and ideas for teachers as they prepare, this isn’t intended to be a rigid script. Given the members in a class and time limitations, it is clear that many of these ideas or suggestions will never be used in any given class meeting.

    I think many times we overlook the time factor in our lessons. Five or ten minutes discussing one thing means that less time to discuss something else. It may not be that the idea is necessarily bad or inappropriate, but there simply may be points of discussion that should receive higher priority given the needs of the class and the promptings a teacher receives.

    The various quotes from general authorities in the lesson manuals come from conference talks or church magazines, but I think it could be useful to consider these as examples of how to incorporate teachings from apostles into the lesson. If a certain story or quotation doesn’t seem relevant or applicable given the needs of one’s class, recent and more fitting material can be found.

    The suggestion to keep things simple may bother some, but it seems to me that such counsel is there to allay the fears of newly called instructors who feel they may not be the right person for the job. Indeed, much counsel is there to give people confidence that they can teach, despite their shortcomings. Given the fact that we have a lay ministry, this is only reasonable. In addition, it seems to me that the church does not want newly called instructors to feel they have to spend a great deal of money purchasing commentaries or other books in order to fulfill their calling. Many instructors are overwhelmed and therefore much counsel is given to calm those fears. It may be seen as some that limiting material to what is in the manual is a form of censorship, but from a different perspective, it is to help those who feel overwhelmed with the responsibility.

    Lastly, I think some specificity would help our discussions about teaching in the Church. Rather than general disappointment about non-correlated materials (whatever that means), it would be helpful if teachers would give specific examples of some doctrine or idea or point they want to teach but feel they can’t for whatever reason.

    One of the specific points raised so far has been the discussion of background and contextual material. Yet, I’m not certain of the severity of this problem. The LDS Bible Dictionary contains background information for many books of scripture and the characters, and this resource is perfectly legitimate to use. Where instructors feel the Bible Dictionary is lacking, still there are other ways to discuss context and background and I’m not certain that the manual constitutes an real obstacle preventing instructors from doing this.

  10. mh
    September 24, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    jeff; I wish you were in my stake presidency. 😉

  11. Mike S
    September 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    #7 Jeff:

    Reading back, I can see how my comment may have been taken out of context. When I said it was “all in your head”, I absolutely did NOT that in a flippant or sarcastic way. I actually meant it as a complement. From your posts, you seem to have a much deeper understanding of where the scriptures come from than the manual than many (including me), so you don’t really need to go to an outside source. You can add the context and still follow the rule to not use “outside materials”

  12. Thomas
    September 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    #5 — Was that Church News article about sticking to the manual one of those apple-polishing editorials on the back of the Church News? I confess I can’t stand those.

  13. hawkgrrrl
    September 24, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    “You just have to put things in historical cultural context for it to mean anything. sometimes the lessons do a fair job of that, often times not enough to suit me.” This is so true, and actually, depending on the content, I think it’s an important part of teacher prep. However, correlation doesn’t provide much of use in this realm, and it can lead to complaints by ignorant folks that you are using outside sources – even *gasp* the internet. Personally, I think that’s vital to being a good teacher, especially when the topic is historical (e.g. OT, NT, or church history / teachings of the prophets).

    Likewise, we should be looking at alternate Biblical translations if they add illumination to a confusing passage (we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, right?). The Y teaches using alternate transalations of the Bible, and they are sold in the BYU bookstore.

    So why do teachers get scrutinized and blacklisted for trying to magnify their calling? Clearly, some are just trying to be speculative or controversial, and in those cases correction is warranted. But there’s also a tendency for some members to be hyper-sensitive to hearing anything expressed in a fresh way or a way that causes one to engage in that horror-of-horrors: thinking! Self-appointed censors may have good intentions, but their methods are often lacking. Teachers are presumed guilty with no evidence, and ward leaders don’t have the time to investigate every claim thoroughly when that happens. So, unless the source of complaint is dismissed as a crackpot, it’s just easier to change the teacher and steer clear of controversy. There are casualties when this happens: sometimes the teacher, but usually the content of future lessons where “safer” teachers (meaning those who don’t study & prepare the material in advance) become the norm.

  14. mh
    September 24, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    hawkgrrrl, AMEN. That is exactly what happened in my ward.

  15. Jeff Spector
    September 24, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Any argument against using the Internet is just about as silly as they come. The Church goes to great lengths to use the Internet to provide materials to members.

    If that happened to me, I’d quit!

  16. Jeff Spector
    September 24, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Mike S,
    “I absolutely did NOT that in a flippant or sarcastic way. I actually meant it as a complement.” I totally took it that way. I just don’t want anyone to think i am a raving OT scholar. I wish I was, but I have to study just like everyone else. My hebrew might be slightly better and as i said, my perspective is different.

    But, thanks for the compliment. I think I have the Ward members fooled….

  17. Matthew Chapman
    September 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    A few observations and personal rules garnered from thirty years of teaching:

    1) It is extremely difficult to get anyone to learn anything about the scriptures of the gospel in any 45-minute class.
    2) A better goal is to try to tantalize your students into going home and searching their own scriptures and personal resources to find their own answers.
    3) An even better goal is to let class members feel the influence of the Spirit in your class. Method: deliver a little truth, and bear testimony.
    4) No teacher ever has to—or ought to—teach anything they do not know is true.
    5) You only have 45 minutes, sometimes less. It is usually possible to introduce and discuss only a single idea in this time. Maybe two.
    6) If you remember 100% of what was taught in the 90 minutes in available class time, you would learn less than prayerfully studying the scriptures for 10 minutes a day the following week.
    7) The less I talk, the more my students enjoy the class. This especially applies to teaching adults.
    8) No topic is off-limits with youth.

  18. Arnster
    September 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Matthew I like your list.

    I think there may be two objectives at work – one is to keep the doctrine (largely) untainted, and the other one is to not waste time with material that doesn’t pack a punch.

    As far as the former, I’m not very old, but I tend to think that the current mentality was framed in the aftermath of Mormon Doctrine. Of course I could be way off base.

    As far as the latter goes, Elder Holland spoke about teaching in the April 1998 general conference.

    “When crises come in our lives—and they will—the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won’t do. Are we really nurturing our youth and our new members in a way that will sustain them when the stresses of life appear? Or are we giving them a kind of theological Twinkie—spiritually empty calories? President John Taylor once called such teaching “fried froth,” the kind of thing you could eat all day and yet finish feeling totally unsatisfied.”

    I kind of took that as a mantra when I was a Sunday School President, and essentially (albeit implicity) banned “Especially For Mormons” from the classroom.

    Increased faith, study, and pondering will bring more to a classroom and to the students’ personal lives than talking at length about some innocuous point. Teachers only have about forty minutes or so so bring the spirit into the room and keep it there and hopefully learn something. The great things in the scriptures were usually revealed after studying the scriptures, and praying – think about Enos, D&C 76, even the First Vision. Take a survey, a sincere survey, of people in the wards, and you’ll find that far too many of them rely on Sunday for their weekly dose of religion.

  19. Jeff Spector
    September 24, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    “you’ll find that far too many of them rely on Sunday for their weekly dose of religion.’

    This is, the the unfortunate truth.

  20. mh
    September 24, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to sunday school. many class members say really off the wall things that often have nothing to do with the lesson. all this talk about promoting class participation seems like a bad idea that often goes in weird directions, and frankly the last few comments seem like froth to me. I can’t glean anything practical for any teacher. their vagueness is quite unhelpful and not practical at all, imo.

  21. jmb275
    September 27, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Here’s my take:
    I teach the YM in my ward (we’re all combined since we’re “in the mission field”). Frankly, I have never taught from the manual. To be clear, I have never read a single quote, paragraph, etc. that was in the manual. My method for teaching is:
    1. Read the lesson on the assigned topic
    2. Formulate a whole boat load of questions that arise in my mind from reading the lesson
    3. Seek my own answers to those questions

    When I deliver the lesson it goes something like this:
    1. Introduce the topic
    2. Ask the boys lots and lots of questions (usually in the form of “what do you think about…” or “how do you feel about…” or “what’s your experience with…”
    3. Force them to think about it and respond with some answers resulting in a nice discussion
    5. Discuss why their answers work, or why they don’t work
    6. Validate, validate, validate!!! Find reasons to agree, and reasons to appeal to Jesus’ example.
    7. Use Jesus example as the primary motivator for answering all questions.

    I’ve never really used outside material, or correlated material. I occasionally appeal to the scriptures.

    I recognize that this is perhaps different in a YM class since, quite frankly, most of them have not formulated hard line orthodox “my way or the highway” answers to many questions and are still malleable and teachable.

    Part of my reasoning for this is also that the YM manual is woefully bad! Even from an internal consistency with modern prophecy it is bad. The new Duty to God is awesome, and I hope they revise the YM manual in that vein.

  22. Jeff Spector
    September 28, 2010 at 6:34 am

    JMB,

    The manual actually supports your method. The point is to teach the principles and to the extent the manual helps, fine. If not, the needs of the YM, is the most important consideration. The YW manuals are worded in a similar fashion.

  23. September 28, 2010 at 7:40 am

    “My conclusion is this. We are to pray, seek the Spirit and prepare using the scriptures and the materials we are given. If we feel it necessary to use a quote or a commentary from another source in order to enhance the lesson, we should use it. Our desire is to help the student more fully understand the lesson being taught. If we feel we can accomplish that with another piece of material, all the better. Not to go overboard with the extra materials, but to enhance the discussion.”

    I did a post like this a few years ago over at Feast, it is interesting how much ambiguity there is around this topic. As far as outside materials go it is very odd that so few in the church seem to understand that outside materials can and should be used for the enhancement of the themes being taught. There is this false tension between the lesson and outside materials as if outside materials will automatically replace the Churches materials. You mention helping the class members understand the lesson being taught, but that would also mean that the instructor understands the lesson being taught. What I am finding as I observe more Sunday School teachers is that many folks have a great understanding of Mormon cultural doctrine but very few teachers have much of else which leads to a lot of lessons where everyone is nodding in agreement but the information being presented is not very accurate or all that doctrinal.

    I also think that we Mormons NEED more exposure to historical and interpretive materials. Pres. Monson’s talk at the last GC where he said God created a firmament is evidence enough of that!

  24. Jeff Spector
    September 28, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Douglas,

    You raise an excellent point. Us teachers almost always say that we learn more by teaching then our class does. but, I think you are on to something important. the better prepared we are as instructors, the better our presentation will be because we understadn more of the underlying concepts.

    while I was studying for the first Isaiah lesson, I had a bunch of materials but finally had to say “enough!” I was on overload with all the good material that I COULD present. but it helps when the questions come up to be prepared for an answer other than fast and pray about it.

  25. Charles
    June 9, 2011 at 4:33 am

    I always, 100% use the lesson manuals.  

    I never use only the lesson manuals.  

    What I do is look at the lesson topics and objectives and try to understand them prayerfully.   I read the lesson over several times to get the flavor, import, direction and spirit of the material.
    Then I ignore the manual.I teach with a goal to change lives with the lesson objective being the focus of the change sought.I use the lesson materials from the manuals and any other reasonable and good source to inform, clarify and emphasize that objective.And, I will always try to find a spiritual experience tying the lesson objective to a real world person who tried it out.When I am finished, I probably will not even peak at the lesson manual as I teach.  That is because the lesson material has come “inside” me and I teach what I have learned.That is what I do.

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